Armenian Stepchildren

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Verse of the Day for August 21, 2009:
James 2:1
My brethren, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.

There is a conversation (if you can call it that) that I get caught in many times. It is triggered after I’ve spoken a few sentences in Armenian and the listener has been unable to detect an accent.

“Where are you from?”

“I’m from here, Los Angeles.”

“No. Where were you born?”

“I was born here in America.”

“But you speak such good Armenian.” Now, mind you, this is being said to me from someone who is born in the Middle East, that is, not from Armenia.

So depending on the favor of my mood, I may retort with, “Well, so do you. So do you.”

“Yeah, but you’re from America.”

“And you’re from Beirut.”

“How about your parents? Where are your parents from?”

Now the fun begins. “They’re from America too.” Now, I notice that the inquirer is completely baffled and confounded. I may offer, “Are you asking about where our family is from, before the Genocide?” And as they nod, I’ll offer, “They’re from Kharpert.” Of course, this is the easy-answer, because the person’s inquiry is so superficial that I really don’t care to get into the details with them. The grandmother who was most influential in my life was from Sivri-Hisar, while my grandparents on the other side came from Palu.

Why the inquiry? I have a sneaky suspicion that it has to do with deep rooted anti-American prejudice. Yup! The American Armenian is the stepchild of the nation. S/he’s not real. And so, begin all the inquiries – to make sure that there’s a connection with something more solid. Ironic, isn’t it? Most people leave the Middle East looking for a solid foundation where to raise their family. They choose America for that stability – a place where they can prosper. But for some reason, America doesn’t hold much weight in the pre-hyphen descriptor to being Armenian.

Here’s to the Armenian-American: the stepchild of the Armenian nation. We’ll never be fully accepted until the next generation of children grow up to be identified as Armenian-Americans. They are the children of the inquirers.

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Vazken Movsesian

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